Winter Growing

While most of us are looking forward to curling up next to the fire with a seed catalogue, a few hardy growers are still sowing, tending and harvesting. For the beginner, winter growing can be a daunting thought, if one considered at all, but there is plenty of veg that thrives in cooler weather or even relishes a good chill.
Oriental and mustard greens are quite hardy, Mizuna Tatsoi  & Miike are all tasty though the Miike is too spicy to eat raw. Cabbages and parsnips both come in container varieties and stand well in winter and there are winter varieties of spring onions and lettuce available.
Don’t forget you still have time to plant garlic and onions both which grow well in containers.

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Untitled II

In all of us there exists an imagination. It is situated in a place we consider private, it belongs to the individual person. For some people their imagination is perhaps an aspect of themselves that they refuse to share with anyone. For others it is a tool they use in order to express themselves or their ideas.
I think I might tend not to express my imagination very often, perhaps that’s why I find writing a blog something of a challenge. It would seem that the imagination is a vital feature for the creative artist, assisting them in drawing out something situated in the private into a public world. As already stated this is not something I do frequently, but I always have an admiration for people who do because without them we would be alot less than we are as a species.
Recently I took my daughter down to The Bold Street Festival. Our primary reason for going on the Sunday was to see the pavement artists create their art on the paving stones outside The Fact. Having found the previous year’s art to be marvellous, I was looking forward to the work on show.
The art was being created as we arrived and the weather had decided to be kind to pavement artists in Liverpool on that particular Sunday. My daughter and I wondered around, deciding which work we liked the best and just generally enjoying the explosion of colours on a normally drab grey canvas of the pavement. Then I noticed at the side of The Fact, children were also using chalk on certain paving slabs. I found out that an art group had set up a competition, each child was allocated one piece of pavement and was allowed to draw whatever they wanted to.
My daughter thought about doing a drawing for a short while then decided to have a go. As she went to work, I looked around at her and the other children, all had their heads down concentrating on their own particular piece of the street.
Each one was accessing their imagination to create a picture of their own choice. From inside a reservoir of imagination they brought forth pictures of people, fairies, animals, dragons and a host of other things.
From the private, an aspect of themselves was on display for all to see. I wonder how many of us adults would be willing to do the same? I don’t know who won the competition and I don’t really care and I don’t think the children cared that much, they were just enjoying themselves.
The real winners are the street and all the people that will get to see the pictures for as long as they are there. I admire all the adult and child artists from that day on Bold Street and thank them for making some part of their imagination public. I wonder what would happen if every person walking down Bold Street was given some chalk and invited to make an aspect of their private imagination public?

Roots

Root vegetables may not be the first vegetables that come to mind when planning an edible container garden but they do surprisingly well. Some of our most used vegetables are root vegetables. Carrots, turnips and potatoes all fall under this loose category. Yields are not as large when compared to vegetables grown in the ground but growing conditions are much easier to manage particularly for the beginner. This year we have grown baby turnips, golden beetroot and of course potatoes which we grew in flexi tubs. Onion, carrots and parsnip also do well or if you’re looking for something a little more unusual try Florence Fennel, Jerusalem Artichokes or Oca.

An Artist and Her Art

Why do I have a problem with conceptual art? Or could it be that it is just conceptual artists who bother me?

In principle, conceptual art can be great. Artists can have brilliant ideas that are original and thought provoking and make you appreciate life from a different perspective. My problem is with those artists who only ever seem to have one idea that they flog to death in countless variations; and with those artists who never get their hands dirty, leaving the practical realization of their idea to underlings.

Jennifer could never be accused of that; she gets her hands dirty, and how!

Jennifer’s current art-work is The Mediated Garden.

So, think of a garden as a work of art. Do you imagine a beautiful arrangement of trees and shrubs designed to please the eye or calm the troubled soul? Forget it. Jennifer doesn’t do pretty.

Think of a roof garden. Do you imagine Japanese minimalism to flatter the ego of the penthouse dweller? Forget it. Jennifer doesn’t do flattery.

Except she flatters me, perhaps, for I am one of an exclusive group of visitors whom she has led down her garden path.

Think the Blue Peter Garden and you are nearer the mark. Jennifer’s garden is a living paradox: it is a garden for everyone which hardly anyone can visit, except through the medium of the internet. So I was flattered to be taken high above the rooftops of Liverpool as a stiff breeze was ruffling the surface of the Mersey and a dramatic sky was framing the Welsh hills in the distance.

Jennifer’s garden is not a feast for the eye, her palette is not colour, her composition does not rely on form. I saw her as a Jackson Pollock of taste and smell as I meandered round an almost random arrangement of flavours and scents from the savoury richness of rosemary to the sharpness of oregano to the sweetness of chocolate mint. This appeals to me. In my own feeble interactions with horticulture I have always prized the scented and the edible.

In her miniature way she is a Turnip Townshend of the rooftops (indeed, there were baby turnips peeping from under their blanket of soil). Jennifer rotates her crops so that carrots follow potatoes and are themselves followed by herbs. But most important of all, Jennifer’s garden is interactive. Like all gardens her creation is organic: it is a growing, ever-changing life form that will constantly respond to its environment but also to the suggestions of its visitors. Very few of us will have the privilege of being led down the garden path by Jennifer just as few of us ever set foot in the Blue Peter Garden, but everyone can visit on the internet and perhaps we can leave our mark on this work of art.

For one, I will suggest she finds a corner for some garlic.

Bob

Untitled I

Now is the time of year when students return to university. For the majority of my life, I doubted my suitability as a potential student. I would walk past university buildings, feeling that I would never be able to cross that boundary,thus enabling myself to obtain a university education. It would be patronizing to say that everyone should have a degree. But I believe that everyone, no matter how poor, should have the opportunity to study at university and then decide for themselves.We are all aware of the increase in tuition fees from 2012, which I consider an absolute disgrace. People who have similar backgrounds to myself will be repelled at the prospect of having to pay so much money for their education.
Placing the issue of combined tuition fees and student loans to one side, there is still a fundamental problem. There are certain people who simply cannot imagine themselves at university. Perhaps their parents didn’t encourage them enough, educating yourself was not seen as worthwhile. Maybe they have criminal records or ill health; perhaps both. I don’t believe that I am the only person whose background seemed a hindrance to going to university. There have been many people before myself and I have even met a few, who have overcome obstacles and who have thrived in higher education. I must admit though, for the first year I seemed to constantly expect a tap on the shoulder and to hear the words “How did you get in here?”
Now as I sit looking out of the university library on the other side of the boundary, there is something I want universities to do. I want them to open their doors to anyone who wants to study,who is passionate about a subject or just wants to learn more. For so much of the time parts of the university sit empty. So what am I doing about this?
On a module last we were set the task of creating an imagined project which had to include plans, costings, dry runs etc. I designed a twelve week project aimed at adults on Incapacity Benefit, which consisted of utilizing different narrative techniques, in order to write about themselves from differing perspectives. I was partly inspired by Nick Rowe of York St. John University and an arts project he helped in designing (see “Border Crossings: Art and health work in a university”, Journal of Applied Arts and Health, vol 1, no.3 2010, pp241-250. This offered mental health services users to opportunity to participate in university life.
I realize that everything costs money, but there is no reason why final year and postgradute students could not assist in the delivery of the course. The aims of these projects are for participants to produce a final piece of work and gain some insights into themselves. Perhap most importantly, it could be the first step in crossing the boundary into university, if that’s what the participants so desired.
Universities should reach out to the groups that much of society has written off. These boundaries are still in place and people still are or feel excluded. As I sit on the inside looking out and if I do nothing- What does that make me? The challenge I have is making the imagined become real.
Mark

Potato Tasting Event

Flyer for Potato Day at FACTPotato Tasting plus Tattie Tales FACT 24th September 1-4pm

The Mediated Garden are hosting a potato tasting event as part of The Bold Street Festival. This is an opportunity to sample the different varieties we’ve grown and discover more about the garden.
For Tattie Tales our partner project tenantspin will be asking for your favourite recipes, top growing tips and potato lore.
Visit our Facebook event page.

Potatoes

Potatoes in bloomThe potato harvest is in with varying results. We grew five varieties in 42l flexi tubs into which we sowed two seed potatoes of each. The final harvest was

  • Pink Fir Apple 6lb
  • Maris Piper 5lb
  • Kestrel 5lb
  • King Edward 3lb
  • Desiree 6lb

All the potato varieties yielded slightly less than those sown in the ground except the King Edward, which produced significantly less, although this plant sustained early damage during the spring storms. After drying the potatoes in the sun, they were stored in paper bags and placed in a cool, dark place until the potato tasting event later this month.

You can watch a video of our potato harvest here.

You can find more about the potato tasting event here